Delivering a speech at the George Washington University on May 26, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken reaffirmed the Joe Biden administration”s “3C” policy toward China: cooperate, compete and contest. He also summed up Biden’s approach to China with three words, “invest, align and compete”.
Obviously, the Biden administration stresses “competition” in the US’ strategy vis-à-vis China for the 2020s decade. This matches the current freezing reality of bilateral ties across the Pacific－China and the US are indeed competing for trade, investment, technology, innovation, influence and geostrategy, to name a few.
Blinken should be commended for including “cooperation” in the US’ policy toward China. This indicates the ongoing political correction in the incumbent administration, differentiating it from that of the previous administration.
While US President Joe Biden has carried on much of the policy left by his predecessor Donald Trump, he has shown an intention to build guardrails to protect China-US competition, not to derail it.
There are many regional and global challenges－climate change, the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue, Iran’s position in resetting the nuclear deal, the COVID-19 pandemic, global fight on terrorism, not to mention the food and energy crises looming large on the horizon. To address each and every of them, the world needs China’s participation and contribution.
Yet the list of competition seems longer: values, rights, fairness, rules, trade, market, supply chains, innovation, high-tech decoupling, geostrategic competition in Eastern Europe and the Indo-Pacific region, apart from outer space. In Blinken’s vision, such a strategic competition has much to do with the survival of the post-World War II liberal world order.
China certainly has benefitted from the postwar order since launching reform and opening-up. Still, Beijing has to improve its external environment, especially in its neighborhood. For this purpose, Chinese leaders have reiterated that the door of China’s opening-up will only open wider and wider.
The rule-based international order is not only applicable to China and few other countries, but also the rest of the world. As the key architect of such a system, the United States has equal obligation to follow the terms of the existing rule-based international order, primarily defined by the United Nations Charter.
It was the US that refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, and quit the Paris Agreement, Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (Iran nuclear deal) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement. And although under the Biden administration, the US has rejoined the Paris climate accord and is considering getting back with Iran in the breached 2015 nuclear deal while working to build the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity, who knows whether it will not withdraw from them again.
Also, it was the US that aligned with China during World War II and helped reunite Taiwan with the motherland. But during the Korean War (1950-53), the then US president said the status of Taiwan was uncertain. And it is the US that seems to be breaking its promise and international law that there is only one China and Taiwan is an integral part of China.
Sino-US relations were normalized in the 1970s, and are based on the one-China policy and the three joint communiques signed by the two sides.
But the US soon passed the “Taiwan Relations Act” and subsequently took its policy of “TRA plus three communiques”. In 1982, when the US signed the third communique with Beijing on arms sale to Taiwan, it also made “six assurances”. The Trump administration was the first to uphold them openly, and now Biden defines his one-China policy as “TRA, three communiques plus six assurances”.
Despite that, the US is welcome to invest in China, and should lift the hurdles for China to invest in the US, because the more they invest, the more they would benefit from each other. And through competition, the two sides could improve the quality of their products and services－and even conceive some cooperative investments, which could prevent other counties from aligning with one side or the other.
In short, we welcome healthy investment for constructive competition and the application of a rule-based order to all competitors.
The author is a professor at, and former executive dean of, the Institute of International Studies, Fudan University.
The views don’t necessarily reflect those of China Daily.
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